Breaking through the language barrier

Tuesday 30 June 2009, 8:55AM
By Pansy Wong

New Zealanders with limited English skills are now able to communicate with Court staff in the language they are most comfortable speaking with the help of a telephone-based interpreting service, the Office of Ethnic Affairs' Language Line service.

Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong says a Memorandum of Understanding between Ministry of Justice and Department of Internal Affairs allows Court staff to use the free interpretation service to assist people with limited English.

"New Zealanders who speak English as a second language often shy away from communicating with government departments and agencies because of the language barrier. Language Line is an effective and efficient way to break down this language barrier and ensure every New Zealander has access to the services they are entitled to," Mrs Wong says.

"Language Line is a wonderful resource that allows New Zealanders to communicate in the language they are most comfortable with and I am pleased that the Ministry of Justice is utilising this resource within our Court systems."

Courts Minister Georgina te Heuheu visited the Courts' call centre in Wellington on Friday and listened in to a mock Language Line call set up for her by staff.

"A 2007 Colmar Brunton survey conducted at Auckland's courts showed that one in every 20 people did not speak English as their first language and Language Line will assist these people when they are dealing with court staff," Mrs te Heuheu.

"The service offers assistance to more than 70 departments and agencies in 40 different languages. The public can now communicate with court staff in the language they are most comfortable in speaking."

The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Justice will see Language Line available for use by High Court, District Courts, Collections, Special Jurisdictions and National Office staff to help them to assist people with limited English access services.